And now, the inevitable decline.
Downtown revitalization seemed so promising. We have detailed all the good things happening over the past several years right here in these column inches. We have applauded the successes and named names of those responsible. We have also noted the laggards and the impediments.
We have opined on what it would take to boost the momentum to a new level. Never have we warned of a slide toward catastrophe. Until now. All good things must end, or so they say. But we never would have predicted it would come to an end this fast.
Here are the signs of the coming Downtown apocalypse.
1. The death of Potbelly. We have noted regularly that only value-added industries like manufacturing grow wealth. Entertainment and service only spreads it around. And without a growing population, it can get spread too thin.
Enter Downtown Toledo. The revitalization has been spurred by sports and entertainment venues, restaurants, and bars. Bringing Promedica downtown increases the captive patrons for these venues during the daytime, but not enough to sustain the massive increase in venues over the past year or so.
The growth has been lopsided toward one economic sector, entertainment. Downtown needs retail and other amenities to bring and keep economic activity there. Until the predicted growth of downtown residency occurs, while commercial space sits empty, and while large building like those on the corners of Huron and Madison languish, there isn’t a big enough entertainment-dollar pie to split again and again.
The closure of Potbelly is the harbinger of growing too fast, too soon. The growth has split the baby in an unsustainable way. Look for more closures to come.
2. Alphabet city. DTID (Downtown Improvement Corporation). DTDC (Downtown Development Corporation). PAC (Parking Advisory Committee). And now a new proposal for some unpronounceable string of letters to control parking downtown. DRPLIAC, or some such nonsense, which sounds like a pharmaceutical that induces vomiting.
Behind every one of these acronyms is another executive director, another board, another fiefdom with a cloistered agenda for downtown. The money flows into them, and never the twain shall meet.
What is needed is one unified vision for downtown. One agenda. One timeline, one budget, one set of strategic priorities, one group held accountable for enacting it. Instead we have a mishmash of letters. Alphabet soup. With little accomplished other than draining cash into some executive directors’ pockets..
3. Out to lunch. And then there’s much ado about parking. Just as Downtown gets going, some chuckleheads have decided expanding the hours of parking meter enforcement and eliminating free parking at lunch is a good idea.
No one with a brain agrees. Everyone supports free lunchtime parking. Patrons don’t want a change, and neither do downtown business owners. Sorta begs the question. Who exactly does want it?
The Kapszukiewicz Administration, apparently. They proposed the bad idea to Council and are pushing a full speed ahead approach.
As lunch spots start to fail, and the alphabet soup-types flail and flounder, we need cool-headed leadership. Instead we get a vision of gung-ho meter maids. Only Toledo City Council stands in the way of a disaster.
We hate to say it, but we gotta say it. We’re doomed.